Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

Homesick for Another World Ottessa Moshfegh

Ottessa Moshfegh’s Man Booker Prize-shortlisted Eileen generated a very mixed reaction among readers last year. However, I was one of those who really enjoyed (if that’s the right word) her debut novel and I was intrigued by her new book ‘Homesick for Another World’, a collection of fourteen short stories which will be published this week in the UK. The tales in this collection range from ‘The Beach Boy’ about a middle-aged couple on an unnamed tropical island to ‘Bettering Myself’ from the perspective of an alcoholic maths teacher in a Catholic school to ‘Nothing Ever Happens Here’ in which an aspiring actor in Hollywood falls for his landlady.

If you thought ‘Eileen’ was repulsive and unsettling in a good way, then it is likely that you will also like ‘Homesick for Another World’. On the other hand, if you thought ‘Eileen’ was repulsive and unsettling in a bad way, then you may wish to avoid this book too. As shown in some of the Man Booker Prize discussions last year, Moshfegh’s choice of subject matter doesn’t always have the widest appeal and her pitch-perfect portraits of a new collection of weirdos and losers is likely to confirm this. The main protagonists in these short stories – both male and female – are for the most part similarly repressed and grotesque as the eponymous character of Moshfegh’s debut novel and intense self-loathing appears to be a recurring personality trait. Most memorable and disturbing of all is Mr Wu who is certainly a character I won’t forget in a hurry.

In less capable hands, the characters in Moshfegh’s stories could easily become tired caricatures, particularly as their creepy personalities overlap by a fair amount despite the different settings and situations they find themselves in across this collection. However, Moshfegh has a very distinctive style of writing which on the surface can come across as being quite abrupt and detached but also allows her to explore characters more subtly through “showing” rather than “telling” their stories.

The title of the collection is certainly fitting given the themes of alienation and dissatisfaction which recur throughout. In each story, Moshfegh dares to explore what many would consider to be the most deplorable even unspeakable aspects of her dysfunctional characters whilst showing that these traits also happen to be their most human qualities. This is what makes ‘Homesick for Another World’ so terrifying yet satisfying overall. Many thanks to Penguin for sending me a review copy via NetGalley.


Filed under Books

14 responses to “Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

  1. This sounds intriguing. I bought, but haven’t got round to reading yet, Eileen last year and am currently really enjoying short stories for the first time. This collection may well be a good next read, thank you.


  2. I have to read Eileen! I’m feeling tentative, though. I’m reading Perfume by Susskind for my work book group and finding that repulsive in a tedious way.


  3. Mmm – will think about this. Eileen is still living in a distant part of my brain, does she need backup – probably not!?


  4. Gosh, sounds a challenging read but I think that’s a very fair review that will drawer the best audience for the book to it.


  5. I bought Eileen after hearing Ottessa Moshfegh read and extract from the opening chapter at an event in November. Her voice was a little hypnotising but more than that I thought Eileen was such a darkly intriguing character I couldn’t resist buying it. It’s still on my tbr for now but I’m looking forward to reading it, and depending on whether I’m repulsed in a good way or not, I’m looking forward to picking up Homesick for Another World too!


  6. I admired Eileen, mostly enjoyed reading it, too, but I understnad those it didn’t like it. I would be interested in reading more by Moshfegh, but I’m not so sure about short stories. Are these really written after Eileen or are they a collection of previous work? Once an author has a hit, there’s a tendency to rush out with a collection of previous short stories to cash in. Good for them, really, we all need to make a living, but I’m not sure it’s the best thing for a writer’s reputation.


    • I think most of these stories were written over the last few years and some of them were published in magazines etc before she wrote Eileen. I read in one of her interviews that she is now focused on writing novels rather than short stories so it might be a while before she brings out another collection if at all. I can see why it looks like they’ve been rushed out especially after the Booker Prize nomination but if the writer is genuinely talented then hopefully it will help rather than hinder their reputation.


  7. I love books that ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’. Great review. Might add this to TBR.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: The Wellcome Book Prize Longlist 2019 | A Little Blog of Books

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